Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Poetry and Football

Verse has myriad forms and purposes. The rhymed couplet written as a celebratory incantation serves as an accessible confection for a publication not actually concerned with poetry. “When the Ball Moves” is a fanzine dedicated to the promotion, in all senses of the word, of Burnley Football Club. In May the team achieved elevation to England’s top division for the first time in over three decades. This happened the day after Newcastle United confirmed their own relegation, a club whose supporters have been bedevilled by frustrated ambition. “Dare to Dream” was the slogan the Clarets took into the Play-Off final: I recommend it to all “Maggies”.

Promoting Dreams

Losing once again to a lesser team,
How many Clarets really dared to dream
Or even entertain the wild notion
That the season might end with promotion?
How many, at kick off, on the first day
Thought it the first step along Wembley Way?
How many already saw their chance gone
When, by full time, they had lost four to one?
The grail of promotion, all fans seek it,
Yet, for fear of hubris, they won’t speak it.
An ill-judged boast and all hopes start to pale;
For the gods punish hubris without fail.
Those supporters who attempt to intrigue
Against fate by being confident the league
Can be all but won by Christmas, find pride
Punished with a sharp series of Yuletide
Defeats by teams that are the negation
Of success; just missing relegation
Their lone ambition. When the season’s done,
When promotion has finally been won,
When scarves and flags have flown, when the fuss,
The chanting, cheering, the open-top bus
Has bourn its soccer demi-urges through
Thronged streets surging with Claret and Blue,
When that joy has flowed and ebbed, then reason
Will turn boldly towards the next season.
Reason enough for season ticket sales
To soar like expectations, since the grail’s
Quest needs one last triumph: the precious cup
To be won now is to toast staying up.
Doom-sayers must be baulked and defeated;
Seventeenth spot and success is completed.
So, quickly let the first new kick off come,
So, let the Britannia Stadium
Ring with Claret anthems as the mission
Commences, with partisan ambition
For victory in the season to come.
Faith, like that which sped ships to Ilium,
A campaign seemingly of daunting size
Makes all the more valuable the final prize
And legends of those who fought for the cause,
Who, for their lifetimes, will receive applause
Whenever they can return to Turf Moor.
Tales will be told of them, a whole folklore
Passing parent to child; they will belong
In the annals, names recorded in song,
Glossy portraits gracing histories still
To be written. But, none of this until
That first whistle blows, then, when the ball moves,
Anticipation simmered beneath rooves
Of every Burnley abode will, by choice,
Discover its proud Claret and Blue voice.
No matter the final destination
Nothing can take away the elation
Of that brilliant afternoon in May
Ensuring BFC would have its day.
Dare to dream, but the dream cannot mask
The daunting enormity of the task.
Yet a town, whose population it seems
Could sit with the Theatre of Dreams,
Is where dreams and reality converge
And long dormant ambitions emerge.
Where claret is the dominant fashion
What’s missing in money is by passion
Made up. What message does such passion send?
“Coyle is God” is the popular legend.
But, football is football, not religion,
Though who can doubt that Owen the pigeon
Was a carrier of good fortune when
Half the gathered town rose up as one,
When the other half held its breath, and then
Commentators confirmed, “GOAL!”. commotion!
Acclaimed realisation! Promotion
Had at long, long last been truly sighted
And, on that day, Burnley was united.
Even people who steadfastly professed
Disinterest in football at best, confessed
Their rudimentary loyalty sated
By that goal: even they were elated.
Burnley will be impossible to ignore
When the Theatre of Dreams comes to Turf Moor.
Let the Longside sing, the Bee Hole acclaim
This is a new season, a whole new game.

Dave Alton